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Need book on adolescent pooch training


Lewis Moon
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Cerb turned 6 months a couple of weeks ago and and he's starting to act like a teenager.... At the park he's incredibly social and it seems, sometimes, he'll only listen when it benefits him. He works well when in training mode but when he's romping with his buds, dad can be so much static. I harsh his mellow :rolleyes: Sometimes when he knows he's done something wrong, like picking up that cat tootsie and ignoring the "leave it" command, he'll run away and I have to chase him down and put him back on lead. Usually not too hard....I think guilt slows him down...

I'd like to transition into "cementing" what he has learned in more "normal" circumstances, transition away fron treat rewards and add and some more complex work. Is there a book that deals with this?

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Why do you want to transition away from treat rewards now? Where do you do your training? all at home? at home and away? do you train at the park much, or is it usually just play time?

 

What I would do is take your regular training now and proof it. Practice it in a wide variety of places and incrementally increase the distraction level. Teenage dogs can push the boundaries, so at times you need to go back to what you consider basic puppy work. Right now it's important that you are fair and consistent and that you keep training time highly motivational to him.

 

If he's blowing you off I would guess the reasons for it at this age are either a) the distractions are too great for his training or b ) you need to more clear and consistent in what you expect

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Why do you want to transition away from treat rewards now? Where do you do your training? all at home? at home and away? do you train at the park much, or is it usually just play time?

 

What I would do is take your regular training now and proof it. Practice it in a wide variety of places and incrementally increase the distraction level. Teenage dogs can push the boundaries, so at times you need to go back to what you consider basic puppy work. Right now it's important that you are fair and consistent and that you keep training time highly motivational to him.

 

If he's blowing you off I would guess the reasons for it at this age are either a) the distractions are too great for his training or b ) you need to more clear and consistent in what you expect

 

I train him just about everywhere. Home, play, at the park.... I believe in "teachable moments" and will often call him during a "lull" in play (when it is easier to get his attention), reward him (both food and praise) when he comes and then send him back out to play. I do more formal work with him for about 15 min or so once or twice a day, every day. It's still hard to get his attention when he has "target fixation" during play.

I would like to at least set the growndwork for transitioning away from treats because he seems to be overly motivated by food and loses interest when the treat bag isn't out. Having a developmental psychologist for a spouse I've learned some of the pitfalls of Skinner.....

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I'd start a variable treat reinforcement. Get rid of the treat bag or keep it where he can't see it. And have a couple different values of treats. Sometimes he gets a treat, sometimes he gets praise, sometimes he gets a jackpot treat. If he's toy motivated work those into your reward routine, too.

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Sounds like your pup needs a good lesson in "certain commands are non-optional". A relaible come/stay command are absolutely crucial and can save your dogs life. You are teaching him at this highly critical age that he has the "option" of listening to you or not, which means he will also think this when it truly matters, as in a non-fenced in area. Saying it's his age or sudjesting he'll come to his senses when he matures is just not realistic. This is an age when boundaries and whats expected of your young one need to be as clear as ever, and consistency is huge!

 

I would sudjest working on your recall and enforcing it NOW! Short distances, then work up to longer distances and distractions. Use a long line so when your youngster decided he may have the option to "check out". Use something highly rewarding, a special treat he ONLY gets when he comes to you! Lots of praise and play! And if he doesn't come to you, reel him in. Follow through and be consistent.

 

By continuing to take him to the dog park you are allowing him to continue to blow you off with no consequence, you are essentaily teaching him in a way to NOT listen to you! Every step forward you take in training will be reversed two fold if you let him get in a position where he is going to be overly-stimulated/excited and you have no control over him. Not saying you can't ever take him to the dp, just get the problem under way first. That may include taking some time off from it until you get things underway.

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Sounds like your pup needs a good lesson in "certain commands are non-optional". A relaible come/stay command are absolutely crucial and can save your dogs life. You are teaching him at this highly critical age that he has the "option" of listening to you or not, which means he will also think this when it truly matters, as in a non-fenced in area. Saying it's his age or sudjesting he'll come to his senses when he matures is just not realistic. This is an age when boundaries and whats expected of your young one need to be as clear as ever, and consistency is huge!

 

I would sudjest working on your recall and enforcing it NOW! Short distances, then work up to longer distances and distractions. Use a long line so when your youngster decided he may have the option to "check out". Use something highly rewarding, a special treat he ONLY gets when he comes to you! Lots of praise and play! And if he doesn't come to you, reel him in. Follow through and be consistent.

 

By continuing to take him to the dog park you are allowing him to continue to blow you off with no consequence, you are essentaily teaching him in a way to NOT listen to you! Every step forward you take in training will be reversed two fold if you let him get in a position where he is going to be overly-stimulated/excited and you have no control over him. Not saying you can't ever take him to the dp, just get the problem under way first. That may include taking some time off from it until you get things underway.

 

 

I completely understand the necessiity of a bomb proof return and he doesn't, as you suggest, have an option. If he doesn't come, he's scolded, run down, put on lead and in "time out"....and he knows he's done something wrong.

As for recall enforcement, He's 100% when he has no distractions. 100%.....and that's significant distractions, not the scratch and sniff distractions. I can even take him out of the scrum, walk 100 ft away from a pack of flailing dogs and he'll be good as gold. It's the jump to doing it while in a scrum that is a toughie for him and I cant see how to do that in increasing stages.

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My first sudjestion would be to possibly take a break from the dog park. Sometimes youngstered go through funky periods and need some extra re-enforcement/training time for periods. But by continuing to allow the behavior to happen is NOT helping thing. Although dogs love to play, there are many other options for possibly exercising him mentally and physicly for awhile until he might get a little more focused on you, that would be my first thought.

 

From a training perspective the fact that he is ignoring you when "in the zone" or when to busy playing with his friends shows he really doesn't understand that come means come no matter what. I would try to maybe re-create that high level of stimulus and train through it before taking him back out.

 

I know you said that you wanted to use "positive motivation" methods and with training recalls I make it 90% FUN FUN FUN!!! lots o tuggin and playing and treats, etc. when learning "competition" recalls but for practical everyday-life recalls, I get a little tougher. In an instance like this where the young guy is distracted and not listening, I wouldn't feel bad at all about getting after him. Putting a good ol long line on and give him a tug when he is not listening to "snap him out of it" and get his attention back on you where it should be when you call him.

 

I suppose this was all about looking for a good book, I don't necessarily agree with books per say on this subject but would highly recomend a knowedgable trainer to help you work through it. Someone who has many years working with and trining dogs succesfully can be a billion times more helpful than one persons' perspective in a book. And a class envoronment might be just the kinda distraction your young one needs?

 

Sorry for taking the post in a different direction! Just some thoughts :rolleyes:

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One thing that I did with Senneca to get a good recall in the dog park was to wait until she was busy playing with some other dogs, then slide away to another corner of the park. After a few minutes, she would look around and see that I wasn't where she last saw me. She would then trot around looking everywhere for me. When she finally found me, there was a treat in my hand and lots of praise. We played this game for a few weeks until she could find me virtually straight away, regardless of where I had gone. Now even when she wanders off to play, she is constantly checking to make sure she know where I am and comes running every time I call her.

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I'd start a variable treat reinforcement. Get rid of the treat bag or keep it where he can't see it. And have a couple different values of treats. Sometimes he gets a treat, sometimes he gets praise, sometimes he gets a jackpot treat. If he's toy motivated work those into your reward routine, too.

 

 

Yup, but at this point I would reward every right answer with something.

 

It sounds like the presence of a treat bag is part of the "picture" for him...and no treat bag = not time to work. This is not because he is being obstinate, or bratty, but because it is how he understands how things work. Think about how he reacts to other cues in his world...you putting on jeans, or picking up keys. Having a visible treat bag tells him that treat bag means he gets rewarded, no treat bag says he doesn't. Its time to wean off that visible cue.

 

Treats should be a random part of the picture, and don't always have to come off of your person, especially if what your rewarding is something he is familiar with. You can always run to the car, the fridge or wherever telling him how awesome he is for that fantastic recall etc and get the cookie from there. Hide them in your pocket, or in your bag, or on some other human, so just because he doesn't see it doesn't mean he won;t get it.

 

My border collie learned to heel with a tennis ball, it took me a while to figure out it had become a cue. Hes 12 years old and seldom does obedience work, but whip out a tennis ball and WHAMMO he will be perfectly attentive and at heel.

 

Adolescence is a time of massive change for him, both physical and mental...imo now is not the time to change the rules or be less reinforcing in any way.

 

Its not unheard of to have to take a step back and treat him like he knows less than what you think he knows: ie treat him like hes still 12 weeks old and maybe give him less opportunity to ignore you: set him up for success. Every time you have a situation where he is rewarded for ignoring you, you are whittling away at what you have already worked so hard on.

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If you haven't done so already, you might want to check out Leslie McDevitt's Control Unleashed. It's not an "adolescent" book per se, but it's a fantastic book overall and I think that the CU exercises would help you a lot.

 

For instance, you can use the Give Me a Break game to work on that recall at the dog park. She also addresses the topic of reinforcement and criteria from the human standpoint, and it's quite an eye opener.

 

I wish you the best with your training.

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Something else I heard about recalls that I thought was really, really good was to make it an event. Your dog is coming, you whip out a tug and start playing the instant he gets there. Have your treat reward ready for him and give him 5 in a row (which is why I always use tiny treats!)

 

It sounds like the presence of a treat bag is part of the "picture" for him...and no treat bag = not time to work. This is not because he is being obstinate, or bratty, but because it is how he understands how things work. Think about how he reacts to other cues in his world...you putting on jeans, or picking up keys. Having a visible treat bag tells him that treat bag means he gets rewarded, no treat bag says he doesn't. Its time to wean off that visible cue.

 

This is more along the lines of what I was trying to say - this explains it so much better!

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Something else I heard about recalls that I thought was really, really good was to make it an event. Your dog is coming, you whip out a tug and start playing the instant he gets there. Have your treat reward ready for him and give him 5 in a row (which is why I always use tiny treats!)

 

 

 

This is more along the lines of what I was trying to say - this explains it so much better!

 

 

That is exactly (some of) what's happening. I carry Cerb's treats in a fanny pack and when I wheel it around front he goes into work mode. Time to find a way of hiding them....pockets.

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That is exactly (some of) what's happening. I carry Cerb's treats in a fanny pack and when I wheel it around front he goes into work mode. Time to find a way of hiding them....pockets.

 

When you work with him at home, your options are endless. Yes, pockets - pant pockets, shirt pockets. You can have the food visible, but off of you. I work with my dogs sometimes with the food in a bowl in a shelf. Part of their training includes learning how to continue to work with a bowl of food visible. Eventually the bowl is moved to a place where the dog can actually reach, so self control is increased as a side-effect of the training. You can also have the food hidden in different locations and run the dog to those places - this could be very effective for recalls.

 

Outdoors there are less options, but you can still be creative. My dogs have learned that when a toy is placed on the branches of a tree it is not available, so we can train with toys in the tree and I can grab them easily as a reward. Again, learning to work while the toys are there is part of the training.

 

You can have a toy in one pocket and treats in the other. You can use a bait bag, but have it hidden under a jacket or shirt.

 

I think the key is to vary your behavior when delivering a treat. Once the dog gets the idea that one specific thing does not signify the presence of a reinforcer, dependence on that thing will decrease.

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